August 11, 2017 8:25 pm
Updated: August 12, 2017 1:51 pm

Annacis Island businesses vent as traffic gridlock worsens

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For anyone who’s had to drive to or through Annacis Island in recent years, it’s a familiar problem: gridlock.

But businesses on the island say the problem is getting worse and are calling for action from the province to take pressure off the over-burdened Alex Fraser Bridge.

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“[Commuters are] not going to the Pattullo because the Pattullo is always under construction, and they’re not going to the Port Mann anymore because the Port Mann is tolled, so they have one choice — they’ve got the Alex Fraser,” said iHaul Freight manager John Anweiler.

“They line up all the way back to Richmond.”

READ MORE: Annacis Island traffic woes frustrates local businesses

Anweiler said getting workers and trucks on and off the island became such a problem the company packed up and moved to Port Kells in May.

“It’s not just my office staff. We are a trucking company and a lot of our costs are of course in our trucks and our fuel and our time, and our service to our customers. So it really was a no-brainer. When the lease was coming up right away we said no, we’ve got to get something else.”

WATCHNew lane coming to Alex Fraser bridge to relieve congestion

Another complaint is the so-called “rat runners,” drivers looking to a stretch of Highway 91 and cutting through the island’s streets and doing illegal left turns and u-turns in the hopes of saving a few minutes.

Anweiler and iFreight aren’t alone. Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said she’s heard from several businesses that have thrown in the towel.

She said the city has been working with the province to try and alleviate problems, but small tweaks aren’t enough.

READ MORE: New interchange in Delta hopes to decrease traffic congestion on Alex Fraser Bridge

“Our staff and the provincial government they did some things that really helped… We did assist at particularly one end, the west end of the island is being taken care of,” she said.

“The other side is not, and it is a very major source of frustration for those that are trying to conduct business on the island.”

“At this point in time it is building again.”

July 2016: Annacis Island traffic woes frustrates local buisnesses

Jackson said she’s met with the Claire Trevena, the new Minister of Transportation – but that conversation largely focused on the George Massey Tunnel replacement.

She said action is needed on a fairer tolling regime.

READ MORE: Should tolls be placed on all major Metro Vancouver bridges?

That’s an approach Anweiler said he supports too, adding he doesn’t understand why the government doesn’t just act now.

“I’m not against paying tolls. I don’t like tolls,” he said. “The solution? Charge a buck for every bridge.”

For its part, the NDP government says it is working on fulfilling a campaign promise to axe tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges.

Speaking with Kamloops’ Ratio NL, Trevena said she’s consulting with the Ministry of Finance on how to make it work.

“Well it is part of my mandate letter, and we are working through the priorities. So when I say as soon as we can I am serious, as soon as we can actually do this we will do this.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver Mayors react to BC Liberals’ promise to eliminate bridge tolls

In a statement to CKNW the Ministry of Transportation says a plan will be in place “by the end of the summer.”

In the meantime, Anweiler said he hasn’t looked back since the company moved.

“The staff are happy, they’re going home and seeing their families on time for supper at night, and it’s just so much better for all of us. My wife sees me an hour earlier every night. It’s a win-win for all of us.”

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